Regret haunts the world

Regret is in the air this week. You might say, regret is the name of the game and, even more, the game of the name. From Geneva to the Gushungo Dairy Estate, in Zimbabwe, to Guinea, it’s been a week of declarations of regret.

On Monday, in Conakry, the capital of Guinea, thousands gathered in peaceful, and courageous, protest, to demonstrate their opposition to the military dictatorship of Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, who seized power in a military coup last December. Reports suggest that as many as 157 people were killed by soldiers who opened fire on them. Survivors and witnesses also reported, “A number of women taking part in the demonstration were stripped naked and sexually assaulted by security forces”. This has been described as “most shocking to the wearied citizens in this predominantly Muslim nation” who were “`profoundly traumatized’ by what had happened to the women in the stadium”.

The government of neighboring Liberia, a country that knows something about militarized sexual violence, issued a statement: ““The government of the Republic of Liberia has expressed grave concern at the events unfolding in neighboring Republic of Guinea, and has learned with profound regrets of the deaths of over 90 persons during a demonstration in Conakry on Monday, September 28, 2009”.

From Conakry, “Guinea’s military junta leader has expressed regret over the bloodshed in the clash between the opposition and security forces in the capital Conakry, Radio Senegal reported on Tuesday.” Death merits “merits” regret. Rape and sexual violence are clothed in silence, deep and profound.

In the same week, it was revealed that Nestlé had been purchasing dairy products from the Gushungo Dairy Estate, in the Mazowe Valley, about 20 kilometers north of Harare, a dairy farm recently taken over by Grace Mugabe. Once this was discovered, other connections were revealed. For example, DeLaval: “DeLaval, a leading equipment firm based in Sweden, is part of the giant Tetra Laval group owned by the Rausing dynasty”. They had sold a ton, actually tons, of equipment to Gushungo. Their response: “.Jörgen Haglind, a spokesman for Tetra Laval, said: “Tetra Laval was not previously aware of this transaction and we can only regret that the control functions within DeLaval have failed as this transaction should never have been approved.””  On Tuesday, “Delaval’s international spokesperson and vice-president of marketing and communications, Benoit Passard, said….”We regret that this has happened. We first made contact with the SA Dairy Association and then a long list of investors. The Mugabe name was never mentioned. This has come as a surprise to us and we would never have done business with them had we known this was who we were dealing with.””

Tuesday was a big day for expressions of regret. On Thursday, Nestlé Zimbabwe “ditched” Gushungo, without any expression of regret but rather an explanation of market forces. Perhaps those would include the threatened global boycott. We’ll never know. By Thursday, the government of Guinea was no longer expressing regret for anything, but rather claiming outside agitators and other nefarious forces were at work in Monday’s demonstration.

What is regret? “To remember, think of (something lost), with distress or longing; to feel (or express) sorrow for the loss of (a person or thing)…. To grieve at, feel mental distress on account of (some event, fact, action, etc.).” Regret is lamentation, grief, sorrow. Regret is loss.

In Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide, Andrea Smith, Cherokee scholar, feminist, rape crisis counselor, activist, woman, tells a story of regret: “`Assimilation’ into white society …only increased Native women’s vulnerability to violence. For instance, when the Cherokee nation was forcibly relocated to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears in the nineteenth century, soldiers targeted for sexual violence Cherokee women who spoke English and had attended mission schools….They were routinely gang-raped causing one missionary to the Cherokee, Daniel Butrick, to regret that any Cherokee had ever been taught English.”

As Smith records for Native women in the United States, as the women of Guinea and Zimbabwe understand deeply, as women in Sweden and Switzerland might know as well when they consider DeLaval and Nestlé as elements of their own well being and comfort, sexual violence is a State policy. It is not an exceptional event, but rather is woven into the very fiber of State security and national development. Ask the Sudanese women refugees in eastern Chad, who have no place to hide from or escape the daily sexual violence.

The United Nations Security Council this week voted to request the appointment of a special representative to address sexual violence in armed conflict zones. After the vote, “Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon … immediately following the text’s adoption…. expressed regret that previous responses to sexual violence had not been able to stem the scourge.”

Were the Security General to express regret, or the leader of Guinea, or the corporate representatives, or the clergy, or anyone in public office or private spaces, for sexual violence, it would have to be more than a simple pro forma apology. The one expressing regret must perform and demonstrate grief, lamentation, sorrow, must understand and teach a lesson of loss. Until then, regret haunts the world … profoundly.

(Photo Credit: Rhizome) (Video Credit: Yoko Ono, Maysles Films, Inc / YouTube)


Going gay for porn and other disasters

Like a lot of people growing up, I got nervous speaking in public and got the obligatory suggestion from some adult that I picture the audience in their underwear.  The idea was that if I was standing in front of naked or mostly naked people, I couldn’t possibly be the most self-conscious person in the room.  Well, this didn’t work because I realized at a young age that there were some people that I just didn’t want to picture only in their undies.  At least this is what I thought at the time.  I’ve learned something recently though, had an epiphany really.  Here it is: NAKED PEOPLE ARE ALL POWERFUL.  It’s true.  Why else do we have to wear so many clothes all the time?  The more important something is, the more clothes people have to wear and the more they are reprimanded if too much skin is showing.  Why else would formal clothes be so stiff and uncomfortable? To reign in your nakedness, to contain it in cotton, woolen or silken shackles.

There is, however, a hierarchy to body parts.  They aren’t all created equal.  So I am going to focus on the big guns, the atom bombs of body parts, and discuss how they are destroying our society.  I consider this a very serious public service.  Let’s start with the ones making the news this week: boobs.  They seem innocent enough, right? Soft. Squishy.  Bouncy.  Bulbous.  Nothing to be scared of, right?  It would be like being scared of a jellyfish and that’s ridiculous, right?  WRONG! Anyone who has seen Finding Nemo knows that jellyfish are KILLERS and so are boobs.  Glenn Beck should be all over this one.  Let’s look at the evidence.  Exhibit #1:  over the weekend, Michael Schwartz, Chief of Staff to the ever-impressive Tom Coburn (R-OK), testified that pornography inflicts homosexuality on people because “all pornography is gay pornography”.  Of course you are male, only men watch porn, and seeing naked women makes you want to touch yourself.  The power of your own penis is of course so strong that you will desire other naked penises and the blight will spread.  Now, sometimes the strong can fight off the gayness like a bad cold but even a mild case of pornography at “least renders you less capable of loving your wife”.  But that’s only the beginning.

On a larger scale, the Detroit City Council is fighting to take back their city from the strippers.  A local church member opines against those who “want to use the city of Detroit as their dumping ground of their bottom-feeding, gutter-living behavior…Then they want to go back to their nice, suburban communities…It’s a shame that poor people, minority people are always the dumping ground for this.”  Translucent naked women and gutter-living patrons ought to be ashamed for single-handedly leading to the downfall of Detroit.  New legislation, however, is trying to ban lap dances and VIP rooms and may even require background checks, distance away from the dancer and opaque pasties in order to provide a safe distance between patrons and boobs, a move that one club owner calls ‘un-American’.  Yet, there are few things more profoundly American than taking our fears, and minorities, by the horns and making them illegal.

Nudity causes crime.  The lust that it inflicts sends people, men, into a blind madness over which they have no control.  They are blind animals.  It can’t be rape if she had that much cleavage or her skirt covered only half of her thighs!

Sound absurd?  This logic isn’t exceptional.  It exercises itself everyday when lawmakers justify cutting  government spending for public services, especially those that work with women, minorities and minority women who have experienced abuse while playing tough on crime.  Sexual violence is still one of the most underreported crimes in the U.S.  and obvious violence is only one facet of the way in which sex is policed.  The latest victim to this absurdity in the Washington, DC area is WEAVE, Women Empowered Against Violence, Inc., which may have to close its doors on October 1st. if it is unable to raise enough funds.  WEAVE is a major lifeline for victims and survivors in the D.C. area.  Help keep WEAVE’s doors open or look into the status of centers in your area.

(Editor’s Note: WEAVE closed in 2012.)

ACAS Bulletin 83: Sexual and gender based violence in Africa

Sexual and gender based violence in Africa

A New ACAS Bulletin edited by Daniel Moshenberg

This Bulletin began in response to news reports of “corrective” and “curative” gang rapes of lesbians in South Africa. These were then followed by news reports of a study in South Africa that found that one in four men in South Africa had committed rape, many of them more than once. We wanted to bring together concerned Africa scholars and committed African activists and practitioners, to help contextualize these reports. We wanted to address the ongoing situation of sexual and gender based violence on the continent, the media coverage of sexual and gender based violence in Africa, and possibilities for responses, however partial, that might offer alternatives to the discourse of the repeated profession of shock or the endless, and endlessly reiterated, cycle of lamentation. To that end, we have brought together writers of prose fiction (Megan Voysey-Braig), lawyer-advocates (Salma Maoulidi, Ann Njogu), poets (Chinwe Azubuike), trauma scholars (Sariane Leigh), human righs and women’s rights advocates (Michelle McHardy), gender and transgender advocates (Liesl Theron), activist researchers (Sasha Gear). These categories are fluid, since every writer here is involved in various activist projects, advocates in many ways. The writers do not pretend to `cover Africa’, and neither does the collection of their writings. The writings treat South Africa, Nigeria, Zanzibar, Kenya, Sierra Leone. They are meant to continue certain conversations, to initiate others.

Read more here :

Download the Entire pdf (3.4mb) here:

Table of Contents

Sexual and gender based violence: everyday, everywhere, and yet… | pdf
Daniel Moshenberg

Untitled | pdf
Megan Voysey-Braig

Zanzibar GBV advocacy: important lessons for future legal reform strategies | pdf
Salma Maoulidi

Searching for the will to conscientiously prosecute sexual crimes in Zanzibar | pdf
Salma Maoulidi

Poet’s Note | pdf
Onwu Di
Of Widowhood
Chinwe Azubuike

Post conflict recovery in Sierra Leone: the spiritual self and the transformational state | pdf
Sariane Leigh

To be a woman in Kenya: a look at sexual and gender-based violence | pdf
Ann Njogu and Michelle McHardy

Trans-hate at the core of gender based violence? | pdf
Liesl Theron

Manhood, violence and coercive sexualities in men’s prisons: dynamics and consequences behind bars and beyond | pdf
Sasha Gear

Supplemental Material

Profile: Dr Denis Mukwge
Lelly Morris / The Lancet

Interview: Sexual terrorism in eastern DRC
Amy Goodman interveiws Christine Shuler Deschryver

Report: Soldiers who rape, commanders who condone
Human Rights Watch

The Association of Concerned African Scholars (ACAS) is a network of academics, analysts and activists. ACAS is engaged in critical research and analysis of Africa and U.S. government policy; developing communication and action networks; and mobilizing concerned communities on critical, current issues related to Africa. ACAS is committed to interrogating the methods and theoretical approaches that shape the study of Africa.